Home Indian Muslim Lebanese village remembers Israel war with joy, sorrow

Lebanese village remembers Israel war with joy, sorrow


Marwaheen (Lebanon) : "Our land is now purified!" people shouted as Israeli tanks rolled out of Lebanon's south a year ago. This month people are busy baking cakes and sweets to celebrate the victory by what they consider the Lebanese resistance, the Shia movement Hezbollah.

"I still remember hearing the grinding of the road by the Israeli tanks as they left our village last year at this same time, I felt my heart would pump out of my chest from joy," says Amira Houmayed, a resident of Marwaheen.

Strolling near her house, she points at the trail left by the tanks – souvenirs for her to show and remember "Israel's defeat in Lebanon in the July War in 2006".

"We thought they were changing patrols, but when we saw them going across the Lebanese border (back into Israel), we realized we had won the war, despite the misery, sorrow and destruction," she says proudly.

Israel launched a wide scale offensive against Lebanon on July 12, 2006, after Hezbollah guerrillas snatched two Israeli soldiers from the border near Lebanon.

The death toll in Lebanon of the resulting war totalled 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The war came to an end Aug 14 when the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 put into effect a ceasefire.

Since then, the area near the border with Israel has been controlled by a beefed-up UN force alongside 15,000 Lebanese soldiers.

"The Israelis violated our villages, searched our private things and homes. When they were around, we stopped walking in the streets to avoid seeing them or being checked by them," she adds.

Marwaheen is a predominantly Sunni town, unlike other areas in southern Lebanon, where residents are mainly Shias.

Most of the houses in the village bear Lebanese flags from their rooftops, with only a few Hezbollah flags, but many people in the village give Hezbollah credit for Israel's defeat in the war.

Some, however, blame Hezbollah for the loss of their loved ones.

People clad in black crowd the cemetery in the village as verses from the Koran echo in the air. Wailing women and men stand at the graves of their loved ones who died on July 15, 2006, three days after the war broke out.

On that day, 27 residents attempting to obey a call by Israeli forces to evacuate were travelling in a convoy when they were struck by artillery from an Israeli gunboat along Lebanon's coast and then an assault by an Israeli helicopter gunship that followed minutes later. Only four survived.

They had attempted to shelter at a UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) base in Marwaheen but were turned away by French soldiers.

The dead could not be buried until the fighting stopped a month later.

"I have lost my wife Mariam, two daughters, six of my cousins, I still have my son, Mohammed," says Adel Abdallah, who is seated next to the grave of his family.

The Sunni Muslim stresses that he paid a high price because of a war he describes as being between "the United States (Israel's main ally) and Iran (Hezbollah's ally) on our land of Lebanon."

"This is my daughter. Her coffin was number 9," he says, pointing at her grave. "It's a nice number, don't you think? And number 7, it's a nice number too. It's my wife.

"And there's number 10. My other daughter," Abdallah says, bursting into tears.